Riding the Dome Car Emerson on the CVSR

Snow is falling as the CVSR Scenic arrives in Akron about five minutes ahead of its scheduled 9:55 a.m. arrival. On the head end, unfortunately, is that LTEX black geep.

Snow is falling as the CVSR Scenic arrives in Akron about five minutes ahead of its scheduled 9:55 a.m. arrival. On the head end, unfortunately, is that LTEX black geep.

This past Sunday I purchased a dome level ticket to ride in dome car Emerson on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.

It is something I’ve wanted to do for a while, particularly during the winter. The CVSR Scenic will never be confused with The Canadian, California Zephyr, Empire Builder, or any other domeliner train that ran through striking mountain scenery.

But although the CZ and the Builder have Amtrak versions that pass through the same scenery as their streamliner era predecessors, those trains have Sightseer lounges that are nice, but not the same as dome car.

And as much as I’d like to ride The Canadian in the winter, I can’t get out there due to my work schedule.  Besides, riding the CVSR Scenic is much cheaper and much closer to home.

My dome ticket cost $20 plus a $2 “handling” fee. I made my reservation online and I had a couple of options for “acquiring” the paper ticket. I could print it myself, but would have to pay a fee of 25 cents. Huh? Or I could pick up the ticket train side in Akron and pay a fee of $3. Guess which option I chose.

Due to bridge construction, the CVSR is only operating to Brecksville through mid March. After March 16 more construction will truncate the route to Peninsula. The entire line is expected to reopen in May.

I had a choice of riding Saturday or Sunday but opted for Sunday because the weather forecast called for snow showers. The park would look prettier with some new snow.
Then again, Saturday turned out to be mostly sunny during much of the day and that would have made for a pretty ride, too. But I had work to do at home on Saturday and an event to attend Saturday night. Sunday just seemed to be the better day.

The ride was, as I expected, very relaxing and the scenery was very pretty. The Cuyahoga Valley National Park looks a little different from atop a dome car.

After my two-and-half-hour trip ended, I brushed the snow off my car and headed out to chase the next run of the Scene. But that is a story for another day.

I’ll have to go back to Emerson again someday. Maybe it will be after the snow stops falling and the sun has come out. What a sight that would be.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

The car attendant of the Emerson sweeps the snow from the steps as passengers wait to board out of sight to the right. Most of those who boarded headed for dining car Lone Star, where they would enjoy brunch.

The car attendant of the Emerson sweeps the snow from the steps as passengers wait to board out of sight to the right. Most of those who boarded headed for dining car Lone Star, where they would enjoy brunch.

My first glimpse of the dome section of the Emerson. The car is named for a corporate donor who provided funds to help refurbish the car after the CVSR acquired it. the car began life as the Silver Bronco and was owned by the Denver & Rio Grande Zephyr, which assigned it to the California Zephyr. After the CZ was discontinued, the car, presumably, continued in service on the Rio Grande Zephyr, which I rode in summer 1979. So I might have ridden in this car once before.

My first glimpse of the dome section of the Emerson. The car is named for a corporate donor who provided funds to help refurbish the car after the CVSR acquired it. the car began life as the Silver Bronco and was owned by the Denver & Rio Grande Zephyr, which assigned it to the California Zephyr. After the CZ was discontinued, the car, presumably, continued in service on the Rio Grande Zephyr, which I rode in summer 1979. So I might have ridden in this car once before.

Not only did the snow showers refresh the snow in the park, it also "freshened" the precipitation on the windows of the dome section. I would wrestle with this the entire trip. Still, as I took my seat there was the anticipation of a special trip.

Not only did the snow showers refresh the snow in the park, it also “freshened” the precipitation on the windows of the dome section. I would wrestle with this the entire trip. Still, as I took my seat there was the anticipation of a special trip.

The snow clinging to the front windows was heavier than that on the side. This view looks north toward the head end of the northward train. Had the train operated fast enough to blow the snow off the roofs of the cars, visibility would have been even more restricted.

The snow clinging to the front windows was heavier than that on the side. This view looks north toward the head end of the northward train. Had the train operated fast enough to blow the snow off the roofs of the cars, visibility would have been even more restricted.

 learned to work depth of field to my advantage in much the same way that I do when shooting through a chain link fence.

I learned to work depth of field to my advantage in much the same way that I do when shooting through a chain link fence.

Milepost 52 is located just south of the Deep Lock Quarry. The fence ahead separates the tracks from the towpath trail that also cuts through the park. I've taken many photographs of CVSR trains and visiting steam locomotives, e.g., Nickel Plate Road No. 765 and Canadian Pacific No. 1218, at this location.

Milepost 52 is located just south of the Deep Lock Quarry. The fence ahead separates the tracks from the towpath trail that also cuts through the park. I’ve taken many photographs of CVSR trains and visiting steam locomotives, e.g., Nickel Plate Road No. 765 and Canadian Pacific No. 1293, at this location.

The towpath train with a lock in the background near the Deep Lock Quarry. Shortly thereafter, the tracks make the first of two crossings of the park and railroad's namesake Cuyahoga River.

The towpath train with a lock in the background near the Deep Lock Quarry. Shortly thereafter, the tracks cross the park and railroad’s namesake Cuyahoga River.

A house in Peninsula between the tracks and the river. The scenery is always nice on the CVSR but perhaps even more so in the winter.

A house in Peninsula between the tracks and the river. The scenery is always nice on the CVSR but perhaps even more so in the winter.

EM10

Looking out the front with a wider perspective to show the dome windows. Amtrak’s Sightseer lounges are nice, but they can’t quite compare to this view.

We had a 15 minute layout in Brecksville, although I didn't get off the train. I would be able to get ground shots of the train in Brecksville later in the day. The iconic Ohio Route 82 bridge and the trees along the are reflected in the Cuyahoga River.

We had a 15 minute layout in Brecksville, although I didn’t get off the train. I would be able to get ground shots of the train in Brecksville later in the day. The iconic Ohio Route 82 bridge and the trees along the are reflected in the Cuyahoga River.

There had been just two other passengers on the northward trip, a couple from Detroit. But on the southward trip, the dome began to fill with passengers. Still, it wasn't at capacity. To view a couple more images that I took inside the dome section and posted on the Eastern Railroads board on Monday, click the link below.

There had been just two other passengers on the northward trip, a couple from Detroit. But on the southward trip, the dome began to fill with passengers. Still, it wasn’t at capacity. To view a couple more images that I took inside the dome section and posted on the Eastern Railroads board on Monday, click the link below.

Crossing the Cuyahoga River north of Peninsula on the return trip.

Crossing the Cuyahoga River north of Peninsula on the return trip.

It isn't the California Zephyr or The Canadian, but a trip in the Emerson through the Cuyahoga River Valley was still a relaxing and scenic experience.

It isn’t the California Zephyr or The Canadian, but a trip in the Emerson through the Cuyahoga River Valley was still a relaxing and scenic experience.

FPA4 No. 6771, which pulled the train northward, is shown  at Akron after I got off.

FPA4 No. 6777, which pulled the train northward, is shown at Akron after I got off.

I got a parting shot of the Emerson as the crowd of passengers waiting to board for the second northbound journey stands on the platform.

I got a parting shot of the Emerson as the crowd of passengers waiting to board for the second northbound journey stands on the platform.

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